Everyone will remember with fondness those rainy PE days at school, when the usual activities of rugby, netball and hockey were forsworn, the class headed for the gym, and if your school was lucky enough to have them, the trampolines were rolled out. It seems that the nostalgia for that free soaring feeling of bouncing high enough to almost touch the ceiling is well and truly still alive.
The last few years has seen an unprecedented explosion in the growth of trampoline parks, which are seen not only as an alternative for children’s birthday parties, but in general, a fun, high energy, way to keep fit. In 2014 there were three trampoline parks in England and Wales. Today there are an estimated 200 such parks.
Trampoline parks are usually indoors, consisting of several trampolines placed alongside each other, sometimes with the addition of slides, and platforms to jump off. However, this type of boisterous, high cardio activity, which is extremely popular with both children and big kids alike, comes with its own risks. The statistics in relation to injuries received whilst engaged in trampolining are worrying in the extreme.
Ambulances were called to nearly 1,200 incidents in English parks last year. The problem is particularly pronounced in the North West which has the highest number of call-outs (293) to trampoline parks of any ambulance trust in 2017.
Some parks had such a poor safety record, that they have since closed down, however this doesn’t seem to have fazed the industry at all, which is seen as having strong commercial legs, borne on the popularity of the trend in the USA.
Whilst operators insist that the number of injuries sustained, in comparison to the number of users of their facilities is fairly low, the type of injury sustained can often be serious. The type of injuries can range from cuts, bruises and soft tissue injuries, to suspected fracture of limbs, head injuries and in several recently reported cases, fractured vertebrae. Some have been left housebound for months or suffered life changing injuries.
Many trampoline parks will make visitors sign a waiver before they are allowed to use the facilities in a bid to ensure that the business is not held liable for any injuries sustained. However, the spike in serious injuries – particularly to children and young people – has coincided with a steep rise in the number of people taking legal action against parks.
Last year, the British Standards Industry published standards for trampoline parks this year in an effort to reduce injuries, and the International Association of Trampoline Parks UK (IATP) introduced a voluntary safety code alongside the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. This included ensuring that there are sufficient stewards on duty, guidance for the construction of new parks, and maintenance requirements.
However, fewer than half of all parks are members of IATP and according to a recent study by Sheffield Children’s Hospital, many parks are still operating with no regulation or basic safety precautions.
IATP UK say they are keen to sure that all venues are safety compliant to ensure that their patrons have an enjoyable, but safe experience. IATP recommend that potential customers look for evidence of safety briefings from staff, a well maintained and well lit park, and sufficient staff members on duty when selecting a park to visit.